Effective phosphate removal for advanced water treatment using low energy, migration electric–field assisted electrocoagulation

Yushi Tian, Weihua He, Dandan Liang, Wulin Yang, Bruce E. Logan, Nanqi Ren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


A migration electric–field assisted electrocoagulation (MEAEC) system was developed to increase phosphate removal from domestic wastewater, with reduced energy consumption, using a titanium charging (inert) electrode and a sacrificial iron anode. In the MEAEC, an electric field was applied between the inert electrode (titanium) and an air cathode to drive migration of phosphate anions towards the sacrificial anode. Current was then applied between the sacrificial anode (Fe or Al mesh) and the air cathode to drive electrocoagulation of phosphate. A MEAEC with the Fe electrode using primary clarifier effluent achieved 98% phosphate removal, producing water with a total phosphorus of 0.3 mg/L with <6 min total treatment time (five cycles; each 10 s inert electrode charging, and 1 min electrocoagulation), at a constant current density of 1 mA/cm2. In the absence of the 10 s charging time, electrocoagulation required 15 min for the same removal. With an aluminum anode and the same phosphorus removal, the MEAEC required 7 cycles (7 min total treatment, 1 min 10 s total charging), while conventional electrocoagulation required 20 min. The energy demand of Fe-MEAEC was only 0.039 kWh/m3 for 98% phosphate removal, which was 35% less than with the Al-MEAEC of 0.06 kWh/m3, and 28% less than that previously obtained using an inert graphite electrode. Analysis of the precipitate showed that a less porous precipitate was obtained with the Al anode than with the Fe anode. The phosphorus in precipitate of Fe-MEAEC was identified as PO43− and HPO42−, while the Fe was present as both Fe2+ and Fe3+. Only HPO42− and Al3+ were identified in the precipitate of the Al-MEAEC. These results indicated that the MEAEC with a titanium inert charging electrode and iron anode could achieve the most efficient phosphate removal with very low energy demands, compared to previous electrochemical approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-136
Number of pages8
JournalWater Research
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Effective phosphate removal for advanced water treatment using low energy, migration electric–field assisted electrocoagulation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this